You may have heard of bite-tracking bracelets recently, since new buzz about these devices suggests wearing a gadget to count how many times your hand moves—presumably to your mouth—may help you take fewer bites and, in turn, consume fewer calories. Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak wrote about recent interest in the devices on People 's website: “It's likely that seeing the number of bites mount up on the tracker provides immediate feedback, which can motivate the wearer to stop eating at a certain point (rather than staying on autopilot and finishing everything on the plate),” he writes.
So, can wearing this kind of tracker really help you drop pounds? Possibly…but there are some big caveats to point out here. Before we get to them, though, it's essential to understand that healthy eating and weight loss are different for every person. And when it comes to weight loss as a goal, what works for some people may not work for others. It's really crucial to think about your reasons for wanting to lose weight—and whether trying to lose weight is healthy for you in the first place. For instance, if you have a history of disordered eating , you should check in with your doctor before making any changes to your eating habits. And even if you have no such history with disordered eating, it's still critical to be realistic with your expectations and focus on a health-based approach. Weight loss is about so much more than tracking your food (if you decide to do that). Your results will depend on factors like getting enough high-quality sleep, limiting your stress, and can also be impacted by factors outside your control, like health conditions or hormones. The most important tip we can give you is to pay attention to your body, treat yourself well, and be kind to yourself above all.
Now, when it comes to using a bite-tracking bracelet for weight loss, it's far from a sure thing. For one, a recent study by Clemson University researchers who designed a bite-tracking device suggests that while the counter can make people eat less, some might start taking bigger bites to get to a lower count while still consuming the same amount of food. What’s more, as Pasternak points out in his article for PEOPLE , “these trackers have limitations, for example providing the same feedback on the number of bites whether you're chomping on a skinless chicken breast and a tossed salad or a double cheeseburger followed by an ice cream sundae.”
Torey Armul, M.S., R.D., an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson, says that there are other reasons to skip bite trackers. “I love for my clients, when they lose weight, to actually end up eating more foods —just the right foods,” she tells SELF, referring to nutrient-dense foods, particularly fruits and veggies .
What’s more, trackers are no substitute for being mindful of your eating decisions . “Health technology can be a good thing when it helps us be more conscious of our behavior, but it shouldn’t replace listening to our bodies,” Armul says. “It shouldn’t replace being mindful of how we’re feeling, listening to our satiety or fullness cues, listening to our hunger levels, to our physical versus emotional hunger.”
And just as, if you feel exhausted one day, you might not do as much physical activity, you should also use your body as a guide to tell you when you need to eat more or less. “You never get the full story in just purely data,” Armul says. “Someone may have a certain number of bites or calories they’re able to hit with their meal, but if they’re not that hungry, they should listen to their bodies. And if they’re extra hungry one day, there may be a reason for that.”
If you want to tune into your body more, Armul recommends starting by reducing distractions that can make it hard to listen to hunger and fullness cues. While it may feel awkward at first if you’re used to eating while on your phone or in front of the TV, over time, your ability to eat mindfully will naturally improve.
“There’s a lot of things that cannot be calculated and likely will never be included in these health trackers, so it’s always important to practice mindfulness and kind of be aware of your own hunger states and fullness cues,” Armul says. “That’s always going to trump pure data.”
Watch: What Everyone Gets Wrong About Eating Disorders